Transforming a privilege into a right to primary education:
Imagine a taluka in the country in which almost no teacher comes one minute late to class? Not many private schools may even claim that distinction. It is not just that a teacher comes to class in time, but performance of every student is tracked by the education officer and appropriate measures are suggested to improve the performance. Excellence in 64 schools in vallabhipur has been achieved, thanks to the devotion and dedication of Mamtaben chouhan, a taluka education officer. She reaches any school unannounced before it opens and then interacts with the students, evaluates their competence according to the class in which they are and pays special attention to children from devi pujak samaj, some of whom are a bit less prepared. She keep record of these students who she will revisit during next similar surprise visit and then see if they have really received the help or not. I asked her to how did she get inspired to achieve such an outstanding performance when the state’s average performance is not so outstanding as yet. She gives credit to her father who works hard every day till mid night and never settles for any thing but the best possible performance in his work.
Having topped the graduation course in SNDT university, Mumbai, she joined the educational department in 1998, served in gariyador and botad, before joining Vallbhipur. From nine to generally nine in the night, she is on the move. When I asked her, What is her one regret which she wished she could have overcome; or avoided, she mentioned the poor response of Devi pujak samaj towards the education of their children, It is her resolve that soon, she will ensure that non one child from that community will also remain out of school. No matter what. It is true that cotton picking, brick making and several other such activities engage the children from this community because of poverty. But then Gujarat can afford to help such children. did not Gondal King make education compulsory more than hundred years ago.
Ajit singh solanki, a president award winner from a primary school in vallbhipur had invited me a few weeks to ago his school to meet many innovative teachers and inspired officers like Mamta. Today when right to education has become a law, we should seriously think as to how will the spirit of this law be implemented in not just Gujarat but the whole country. May be Mamta and ajit, and many other unsung heroes and heroines of our society are really the torch bearers who can show the way. But will policy makers have the humility to learn from such grassroots functionaries in public systems, empower them so as to inspire others. Beginning with 36 students taught in a rented building more than a decade ago, ajit singh has 700 plus students in beautiful schools which are better than many I have seen even in cities. Vallbi was an internationally renowned center of education more than two thousand years ago,. It may so become once again. If we let it.
Anil K Gupta